JAXA President Monthly Regular Press Conference January 2016

JAXA President Monthly Regular Press Conference

Date and time: From 11:00 - 11:40 a.m. on Jan. 14 (Thu.), 2016
Venue: JAXA Tokyo Office Presentation Room (B1 floor)
MC: Yoshikazu Shoji, JAXA Public Affairs Department Director

New Year’s resolution

Last year was a busy year as the new Basic Plan on Space Policy was issued in January, our organization status was shifted to a national research and development agency in April, then, at the end of the year, the Japanese government decided to extend our participation in the ISS project. In parallel, some projects were in progress and they have achieved each project objective. Therefore, I can say it was a hectic but quite fruitful year. I understand that it was not only because of all-out efforts by the project teams and other JAXA employees but also thanks to support and cooperation of pertinent organizations and companies. I would like to extend my sincere appreciation.
Among those projects, let me pick up two points that are impressive to me.
First, the first flight of the MRJ and the upgraded H-IIA flight verification (H-IIA Launch Vehicle No. 29). Those two projects indicated that 2015 was a year that JAXA entered a new phase of utilizing our achievements in the “commercial world” although JAXA had been working within the realm of science and technology. Both the MRJ and the upgraded H-IIA have been jointly developed with a private company, and their development results were “technically verified by an actual flight”. For the respective private companies, it was also commemorative to introduce their technology to their market.
Second was the AKATSUKI, which was injected into the Venus orbit five years after its launch, and the D-SEND#2 project, which finally achieved its objective at the third trial. These successes were attained through the persistence of JAXA employees and “team power” that can bring them together. With the success of these projects as well as other projects, I felt the strength of the team power within JAXA and cooperative work with pertinent private companies to achieve these goals.

Turning to this New Year, first of all, we have to pour all our power into the success of the ASTRO-H launch scheduled on February 12. We held a press day for the satellite the other day. This X-ray astronomy satellite was developed based on international cooperation, and its observation data after launch is highly anticipated to gain new scientific knowledge. Therefore it is a very important target for us.
In the next Japan fiscal year starting April 2016, although the budget is still under discussion, the next generation flagship launch vehicle H3 will be in the detailed design phase to start full-scale development. I will introduce you to other projects when the budget is fixed.
As we became a national research and development agency in April last year, we reviewed and strengthened our R&D development organization. I feel that our technological standard does not necessarily meet the international benchmark, thus I put more energy into further enriching our organization review results. In that sense, issues that should be prioritized for JAXA’s R&D have already been clarified.

JFY 2016 Budget

We have been unofficially informed that the budget for Japan Fiscal Year 2016 is 154.1 billion yen. The major points are as follows: H3 Launch Vehicle development as I mentioned before; next-generation engineering satellite development to achieve an all-electric system and larger power output especially in the broadcast and communication satellite area, which is an open market, in order to strengthen international competitiveness of our country’s satellite industry; drastic reduction of transportation costs to the International Space Station (ISS); and development of a new ISS cargo transportation system for gaining high technology that can positively impact the future. I hope that we will come up with technology development projects that can be equivalent to or even better than those in other countries.

Japan’s decision to participate in extended ISS operations till 2024

The Japanese government decided to extend our participation in the ISS operation. My comment on this issue was published on the JAXA website at the end of last year. I understand that there were many different opinions, thus I feel the need to further enrich our ISS operations and program for better utilization and application to meet the purpose of the extended operation. In that sense, I am well aware that I have a huge responsibility.

JAXA astronauts

Astronaut Yui is smoothly rehabilitating. He will come back to Japan in late February, and is scheduled to hold a press conference and debriefing sessions. His debriefing session to be held in a local area is named “The Grateful Turtle” (for reference: Astronaut Yui’s first name “Kimiya” starts with the Japanese Kanji character for a “turtle” when it is written in Japanese. Turtles and cranes are regarded as a sign of good fortune, thus often referred together, and there is a very well-known old tale titled “The Grateful Crane” in Japan), and we are looking for a group or organization that can host his debriefing. We will later announce the schedule of the debriefing in the metropolitan area.

Astronaut Onishi is scheduled to come back to Japan for training at the end of January. It will be his last homecoming before his six-month stay at the ISS starting in June. We will reveal some part of his training and introduce an experiment that he engages in. More details will be announced later.

50-kg class satellite to be deployed from Kibo

A 50-kg class small satellite of the Philippines was developed through international cooperation led by Hokkaido and Tohoku Universities of Japan with the Philippine’s Dept. of Science and Technology, and will be deployed from the ISS’s Japanese Experiment Module “Kibo”. We had a hand-over ceremony for the satellite at the Tsukuba Space Center. This is the first time to deploy a 50-kg class small satellite using Japan’s release mechanism.
I exchanged opinions with personnel from the Philippines, and they expressed their expectations for contributions from Japan and JAXA to the Philippine’s space technology development. We also want to strive to meet their expectations.

Selection of candidate theme for Kibo use

We have selected the candidate theme for the experiment in the pressurized area of the Kibo. A campaign to choose it this time was slightly different from our conventional campaign which focused on scientific significance and space experiment feasibility. We shifted our focus to contributions and future vision for Japan’s strategic research and policy. After selection, the theme will be further discussed with JAXA to technically hammer down the details.
JAXA and researchers will cooperatively specify an experiment plan and study it from a technological aspect while aiming to perform an on-orbit experiment as soon as possible.

Space Exploration Innovation Hub research themes selected

In last April, we established the “Space Exploration Innovation Hub Center” in our organization, and it is being operated through the competitive funds from the Japan Science and Technology Agency (JST). The candidate themes for the Center were selected as part of a major science and technology policy pillar of innovation creation for Japan, rather than merely for space. We, a space agency, chose the themes in such a broad framework, thus the organizations that were selected for the themes are not necessarily familiar with us, and I expect that we can acquire fresh knowledge and ideas from them.